Naming*Cree – ''sang-gwiss'', ''shakzuashew'' or ''atjackasheiv''
⤷ Ojibwe – ''shang-gwes'-se''
⤷ Chipewyan – ''tel-chu'-say''
⤷ Ogallala Sioux – ''lo-chin'-cha''
⤷ Yankton Sioux – ''doke-sesch''As of 2005, 15 subspecies are recognised.
StatusBecause of range expansion, the American mink is classed as a least-concern species by the IUCN. Since the extinction of the sea mink, the American mink is the only extant member of the genus ''Neovison''. The American mink is a carnivore which feeds on rodents, fish, crustaceans, frogs, and birds. In its introduced range in Europe it has been classified as an invasive species linked to declines in European mink, Pyrenean desman, and water vole populations. It is the most frequently farmed animal for its fur, exceeding the silver fox, sable, marten, and skunk in economic importance.
BehaviorAmerican mink territories are held by individual animals with minimal intrasex overlap, but with extensive overlap between animals of the opposite sex. Most territories are located in undisturbed, rocky, coastal habitats with broad littoral zones and dense cover. They may also occur on estuaries, rivers and canals near urban areas. Home ranges are typically 1–6 kilometres long, with male territories being larger than those of females. As long as it is close to water, the American mink is not fussy over its choice of den. Mink dens typically consist of long burrows in river banks, holes under logs, tree stumps, or roots and hollow trees, though dens located in rock crevices, drains, and nooks under stone piles and bridges are occasionally selected. The burrows they dig themselves are typically about four inches in diameter and may continue along for 10–12 feet at a depth of 2–3 feet. The American mink may nest in burrows dug previously by muskrats, badgers and skunks, and may also dig dens in old ant hills. The nesting chamber is located at the end of a four-inch tunnel, and is about a foot in diameter. It is warm, dry and lined with straw and feathers. The American mink's dens are characterized by a large number of entrances and twisting passages. The number of exits vary from one to eight.
The American mink normally only vocalises during close encounters with other minks or predators. The sounds they emit include piercing shrieks and hisses when threatened and muffled chuckling sounds when mating. Kits squeak repeatedly when separated from their mothers. Ernest Thompson Seton reported hearing minks growl and snarl when confronting a threat. During aggressive interactions, this mink asserts its dominance by arching its back, puffing up, and lashing its tail, stamping and scraping the ground with its feet, and opening its mouth in a threat-gape. Should this be unsuccessful, fights may result, with injuries to the head and neck.
ReproductionThe American mink is a promiscuous animal, which does not form pair bonds. The mating season begins from February in its southern range to April in the north. In its introduced range, the American mink breeds one month earlier than the European mink. Males commonly fight during the mating season, which may result in the formation of loose, temporary dominance hierarchies governing access to receptive females. The mating season lasts for three weeks, with ovulation being induced by the presence of males. The mating process is violent, with the male typically biting the female on the nape of the neck and pinning her with his forefeet. Mating lasts from 10 minutes to four hours. Females are receptive for seven- to 10-day intervals during the three-week breeding season, and can mate with multiple males. Along with the striped skunk, the American mink is among the only mammals to mate in spring whilst possessing a short delay before the occurrence of implantation. This delayed implantation allows pregnant minks to keep track of environmental conditions and select an ideal time and place for parturition.
The gestation period lasts from 40–75 days, with actual embryonic development taking place after 30–32 days, thus indicating delayed implantation can last from eight to 45 days. The young are born either in April or June, with litters consisting of four kits on average. Exceptionally large litters of 11 kits have been recorded in Tartaria and 16 in the United States. The kits are blind at birth, weighing six grams and possessing a short coat of fine, silver-white hairs. The kits are dependent on their mother's milk, which contains 3.8% lipids, 6.2% protein, 4.6% lactose and 10.66% mineral salts. Their eyes open after 25 days, with weaning occurring after five weeks. The kits begin hunting after eight weeks of age, but stay close to their mother until autumn, when they become independent. Sexual maturity is attained during the kit's first spring, when they are about 10 months old.
PredatorsThe American mink replaces and sometimes kills the European mink wherever their ranges overlap. The decline of European mink populations seems to coincide with the spread of the American mink. The diets of the American mink and European otter overlap to a great extent. In areas where these two species are sympatric, competition with the otter for fish causes the American mink to hunt land-based prey more frequently.
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